General Purpose Tech & Econ Growth

Robin Hanson (
Fri, 08 Jan 1999 15:46:54 -0800

I bought & read parts of this book this last weekend. It seems highly relevant to speculations about the economic impact of future techs like nanotech, AI, space travel, etc.

General Purpose Technologies & Economic Growth

editied by Elhanan Helpman
320 pages, Nov, 1998, MIT Press; ISBN: 0262082632

Most economists have viewed technological progress as an incremental process. A few have focused on the role of drastic innovations - those that introduce a discontinuity. The contributors to this volume are concerned with the type of drastic innovation called general purpose technologies (GPTs). A GPT has the potential to affect the entire economic system and can lead to far-reaching changes in such social factors as working hours and constraints on family life. Examples of GPTs are the steam engine, electricity, and the computer. The study of GPTs is relatively new. A universal theoretical framework for dealing with GPTs does not yet exist. The essays in this book both further our understanding of GPT-driven economic growth and lay the foundation for further developments of the available frameworks.

Robin Hanson   
RWJF Health Policy Scholar             FAX: 510-643-8614 
140 Warren Hall, UC Berkeley, CA 94720-7360 510-643-1884